The Bowes Museum > About > Our History > The Building

The Building


John and Joséphine decided to build a museum to house their extensive collections of European fine and decorative art.  They chose Barnard Castle as the nearest town to Streatlam Castle, John’s main residence in England.  The French architect Jules Pellechet, who had worked for them in France, designed the building, although alterations were made later. The French style architecture is thought to be based on that of the town hall in Le Havre.

  
A local architect and builder, J.E. Watson of Newcastle and Joseph Kyle, were employed to carry through the construction work.  Many of the workers, and some of the suppliers, were local people.

 

Joséphine’s death in 1874, less than five years after she laid the foundation stone, coupled with John’s financial problems, meant that the Museum was still not complete when John died in 1885.  Responsibility for finishing the work fell to the Trustees appointed under the wills of Joséphine and John. The Museum opened to the public in 1892.

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!


Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.